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12:13 PM, Jul 4, 2014 toot this
Our Financial Future
I just updated my financial spreadsheet. I've been working hard to rebuild my finances since the summer of 2010, when I put together the first form of what is now my personal system for budgeting. Until early 2012 I was singularly focused on paying off the consumer debt I accumulated throughout my twenties, but especially for the seven months when I was unemployed in 2008 and 2009, which pushed the total debt to the low-to-mid five figures. By January 2013 I was out of consumer debt and had real, substantial(for me) savings. Enough to begin investing. When I made the transition earlier this year from being a try-before-you-buy contractor to a full-time employee, I availed myself of the retirement and healthcare options that my employer offered, of which I had never really taken advantage at previous jobs. I'd had a 401(k) plan before, but I'd never committed to 6% contributions(which are matched) before, so when I ate my first 401(k) up when I was unemployed, it wasn't worth much more than what I've managed to raise now in five months.

For the first time, I have a health savings account into which I make payroll contributions twice a month. At Ali's (justified) urging, I used this in April to complete some long-overdue dental work. I got my wisdom teeth removed(which I should have done in 1998) and Dr. Fleming drilled and filled perhaps 17 cavities. The result is that now for the first time in my adult life I have no tooth pain.

Speaking of Ali, who I love very much, and with whom I anxiously anticipate getting married and starting a family next year, I've been working hard to make adequate arrangements for our financial future. I opened a Roth IRA in April, and made arrangements to make the maximum legal contribution in 2014, and all the eligible years that follow, and I've been watching that investment grow. I also have an account with Lending Club, which has been earning me about 15% on my investment since I opened it with a smaller amount last May. My plan is to continue to make contributions to that, but only after all the other investment avenues have been met.

For the first time, I made a chart of my finances that takes the long view, combining factors like inflation, healthcare expenses, children, and a host of other concerns, to determine when the aforementioned investments will be mature enough for us to retire and live off them solely without other income. A very conservative estimate is my sixtieth birthday, 25 years from now. That plan of course depends on a lot of assumptions: My income never changes(so I remain employed), the conservative returns I've plotted hold true and don't go negative, our family remains healthy enough to avoid any major medical expenses, and other factors that are anything but certain. So, in the face of that uncertainty, any more we can do will be beneficial.

The idea of retirement is one for which I had never made any particular plan before, but it's definitely something I'm glad I'm doing. My only regret is not having done something like this years ago. I'm ten to fifteen years late on this, and imagining how much better off I would be now if I had established my financial plan when I was younger is cause for regret, but there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is make what arrangements I can, now.

12:18 PM, Jul 15, 2014 toot this
I recently switched mobile phone carriers. Sprint was charging me way too much for my comfort. I'm told the rates I was being charged were pretty competitive, but $85 a month is whole a lot to pay, in my opinion. My plan was that rate for unlimited voice minutes, data, and text messages. I decided that though I didn't mind having unlimited texts and data, there was no reason for me to pay for unlimited voice minutes. I investigated Sprint's website for a plan that allows me to take the voice minutes down to something reasonable-- say, 100 minutes a month. No such plan was available.

Through some relatively random web-bouncing, I some time ago discovered Ting, a wireless carrier that resells a mishmash of Sprint voice/data/SMS service and Verizon voice service, and bills 100% for usage. Each category has usage tiers for which there are respective monthly rates. Their website has more information if it should interest you. The point of this post is not to sell Ting service, though if you do wind up interested, let me know. I can get us both a billing credit if you sign up.

So I switched to Ting, and watched my phone bill drop from $85 with an employee discount, to about $35 per month. With my $40 employee phone stipend, that makes my mobile phone service free of charge. Good news all around. But I left out a critical piece: the fact that I talk on the phone a lot for work, and I do still talk on the phone with my family, but only when I'm at home. I don't like having full phone conversations away from home. This however is totally fine, since there are abundant voice-over-ip carriers available, and I have the world's best residential ISP. I tried a couple out, and settled on just using calling and receiving calls from within gmail.

Part of my job is to be on call once every six weeks or so, for a week at a time. That means that I can expect to be woken up a couple times a week for a work call. When I was on call, I discovered the headset method was not a viable option for being oncall. It's far too difficult to get from being asleep to at my desk with the phone answered in a shorter time than it takes for the call to go to voicemail.

So I bought an ooma and my first landline phone in over ten years. The phone has a second handset that only requires a small charging cradle. So I put that in my room. Now, for about $65 a month, I have gigabit internet, 4G mobile phone service, and an unlimited landline. I'm getting concerned about the power consumption and distribution load in my apartment though. I have a bit of a tech corner now, with 20+ powered devices. I might have to look into that.

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